Is “microdosing” of psychedelic drugs a safer alternative, or is it just as potentially dangerous as taking a larger dose? “Microdosing” – taking a very small amount of psychedelic drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psychedelic mushrooms – was practiced by the inventor of LSD Albert Hofmann but increased in popularity after psychologist and researcher James Fadiman described it in a book published in 2011.

Users state that “microdosing” can improve focus and creativity, while others use it to treat psychiatric conditions like depression, seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) without the visuals that usually accompany psychedelic drug use. Matt Johnson, PhD, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has studied the behavioral effects of psychedelic drugs but asserts that there are no clinical trials on safety and efficacy of microdoses; although taking very small doses is less likely to be as dangerous as taking a larger dose, the long-term side effects of “microdosing” are unknown.

Psychedelic drugs may work by activating the serotonin 5HT-2A receptor, but Dr. Johnson also noted that any positive outcomes could be due to a placebo effect. Double-blind studies could help in evaluating the safety and efficacy of “microdosing,” but these doses would be difficult to measure reliably in clinical trials and restrictions on research using these illegal substances hamper their use.